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Tampere Alumni Ambassadors 2020 - 21

Tampere Ambassadors

Juha Alakarhu, VP of Imaging, Axon

Tell us briefly about your background in Tampere, your career and your current work

I moved to Tampere in 1995 to study. After completing my doctoral thesis, I joined Nokia’s camera team in 2004. I have researched and developed different kinds of cameras for a few different companies in Tampere across my career, and my latest employer is an American company, Axon, with a team in Tampere responsible for their cameras. I feel privileged that I have always had the opportunity to play a role in camera innovation at the forefront of development, and as part of a brilliant team!

What did you especially appreciate at your own higher education institution?

High-quality teaching, especially in signal processing and software technology, has provided me with a solid basis for developing Tampere to become one of the best places in the world to develop cameras.

How would you describe Tampere as a city, what makes it special?

The tram and the tunnel. :) Just kidding. The best thing about Tampere is the spirit of solidarity and cooperation between people and companies. Perhaps Tampere is the perfect size to create a genuine feeling of togetherness.


Tampere Ambassadors

Suvi Haimi, Founder, CEO, Sulapac Ltd

Tell us briefly about your background in Tampere, your career and your current work

I am the founder and CEO of Sulapac Oy, and I was born and raised in Tampere. I graduated as a biochemist in 2006, and defended my doctoral thesis on medical biomaterials in 2008 at Tampere University. I decided to shift from researcher to entrepreneur so that I could better carry out my mission of utilising biomaterials and preventing the planet from drowning in plastic waste. Sulapac was founded in 2016, and last year we raised 15 million euros of funding to expand our business globally. Our customers include Chanel, Fazer and Stora Enso. Our vision is to make Sulapac the world’s leading sustainable plastic replacement material.

What did you especially appreciate at your own higher education institution?

The multidisciplinary doctoral thesis, directed collaboratively by the former Tampere University of Technology (TTY) and University of Tampere (TaY), gave an excellent basis for entrepreneurship. The cell and tissue technology unit knew how to choose research subjects where we could be world-leading experts.

How would you describe Tampere as a city, what makes it special?

The benefits of both small and large cities are combined in Tampere: the natural beauty of Finland and its lakes is never far away, and the services you’d find in a larger city and internationally high-quality education are readily available.


Tampere Ambassadors

Sini Havukainen, Co-Founder, CEO, Layette Ltd

Tell us briefly about your background in Tampere, your career and your current job.

I graduated as a midwife from Tampere University of Applied Sciences (TAMK) in 2007. I first worked in the neonatal intensive care and observation unit at Tampere University Hospital. We moved to Silicon Valley in California, when my husband was relocated there. There, the innovative, entrepreneurial atmosphere sucked me in. When we returned to Finland, I wanted to create a new export product for Finland to help families around the world. Thus, the idea of the Layette maternity application was born.

What did you especially appreciate at your own higher education institution?

Already back then, TAMK had extremely professional teachers and a positive, motivating atmosphere.

How would you describe Tampere as a city? What makes it special?

I love striving to move forward and pursuing my dreams with passion, and I think Tampere exudes the same energy, both respecting old traditions and boldly facing new things.


Tampere Ambassadors

Pasi Kuhmonen, Senior Partner, Owner, Villivisio Ltd

Tell us briefly about your background in Tampere, your career and your current job.

1998 was when I moved from Karstula to Tampere to study business economics and marketing at Tampere University of Applied Sciences. Originally, the plan was not to stay in Tampere for good, but to move to Helsinki after graduation. Instead, I ended up falling for this city, and a significant reason for my decision to stay was the business we set up in 1999. In twenty-one years of working with the diverse issues of marketing communications, it has been very rewarding to build growth for our great customers. In my second year of primary school, I said that I wanted to be ‘the boss of an advertising company’. That came true for me, and I enjoy my work as if it was my hobby. Entrepreneurship has been close to my heart since childhood, and that passion still drives me.

What did you especially appreciate at your own higher education institution?

TAMK Proakatemia, an academy of entrepreneurship, began operating in 1999, and Villivisio was its first enterprise. I already knew of Tiimiakatemia in Jyväskylä, and when I saw the first advertisement for the academy model in TAMK, I did not hesitate to go for it. The management of TAMK and our coaches Irja Lehtinen and Antti Klaavu gave a solid start to both me and our enterprise alike, supporting and challenging us young enthusiasts to the perfect level. ’Everything is possible’ was our first slogan, and it speaks for the freedom and courage we were given to pursue our dreams (some dating back to our childhood) alongside team members of kindred spirit.

How would you describe Tampere as a city? What makes it special?

Tampere is full of the brave decision-makers that a developing city needs. It is a suitably sized city in an ideal location. With its combination of nature and breath-taking lake views alongside the development of the city centre, this a good place for a person to live while embarking on starting a new enterprise.


Tampere Ambassadors

Henna Paakinaho, Sales and Marketing Manager, Solita

Tell us briefly about your background in Tampere, your career and your current job.

I moved to Tampere with my husband six years ago to pursue study and employment opportunities. Since then, I have studied both at TaY and TAMK, set up a branch office for a software company and created several new jobs in Tampere, in addition to having networked with numerous professionals across different fields, not to mention participating in the building of a terraced house in my free time! Continuing to learn and develop is vital to me. My first degree was in IT engineering, and I have rounded out my knowledge with an international Master's degree in sales and sales management. I believe that technological and sales expertise are a combination that will be needed more and more, as they form a solid basis for solving a client’s problems, developing a business and creating new innovations.

What did you especially appreciate at your own higher education institution?

Studying for a Master’s degree in sales was completely different compared with my previous university experiences! Our advanced studies included no classroom education; instead, they consisted of a few intensive sessions, team learning and independent working. Everything that we learned was put into practice at work, and through that, studying became varied and personal for everyone. Studying was tough, but still one of the best experiences of my life! Our Masters group in sales became a very tight-knit network, where help was always at hand. We still do plenty together, a good example being a sales guide we created in 2020, titled ‘Myynnin mahdollisuudet poikkeustilanteessa’ (https://projects.tuni.fi/robins-fi/uutiset/myynti-on-kasvun-moottori-poikkeustilanteessakin-tamkin-myyntimaistereiden-keinot-uuteen-normaaliin/). With this, we wanted to help businesses make sales in these challenging and unusual times. Pia Hautamäki and her team have done a great job uniting academic thinking and practical work successfully.

How would you describe Tampere as a city? What makes it special?

Tampere is a place of many opportunities. I like the feel of Tampere, and the fact that it is a city both big and small. Hailing from Savonlinna, water is an important element to me, and the wealth of waterways in Tampere makes me feel at home. Tampere is developing constantly, and its companies and people are enthusiastically behind this. Tampere has a good vibe! Business life in Tampere is very active as well. Cooperation between companies and universities is well developed already, creating a good foundation for developing future expertise. I am especially excited about how much development and how many events and networks have sprung up around sales.


Tampere Ambassadors

Sami Somero, Entrepreneur, Private Investor, Nurmiranta Holdings Ltd

Tell us briefly about your background in Tampere, your career and your current job.

I have lived in the Tampere region all my life. I studied data processing at the University of Tampere, and around the same time as my graduation in 1999, I set up an IT business with two of my friends. Our business, Plenware, grew in Tampere to become a multinational company that employs over six hundred people. After we merged with the Swedish Cybercom, I continued serving the company for a few years before I decided to return to younger growth companies as an investor, peer entrepreneur and professional board member. In these roles, I have worked in tens of start-up companies in different fields, doing my part to help companies grow and flourish. Nowadays, I work on the boards of Gofore, Tamturbo, Haarla and Anders, among others.

What did you especially appreciate at your own higher education institution?

The diverse universities and universities of applied sciences in Tampere have educated people who excel in different fields for the industry and commerce in the region, and have thus assisted in the birth of businesses and the development of start-up companies into international leaders in their fields. For me, university offered a natural path to work and entrepreneurship, and later on, it led me to a numerous tribe of colleagues and business associates with solid educational backgrounds.

How would you describe Tampere as a city? What makes it special?

Tampere is a great place to set up a business and to live your life. The city has grown and developed and has always had the courage to invest in its future. Tampere offers diverse opportunities in terms of education, career and leisure. Despite its growth, Tampere has remained a human scale city and preserved its proximity to nature.


Tampere Ambassadors
Photo: Jonne Renvall

Lauren Stevens, Tampere University

Tell us briefly about your background in Tampere, your career and your current job.

I moved to Finland in 2015 to study a Master’s degree in Peace, Mediation and Conflict Research at Tampere University. Alongside my studies, I participated in seventeen Finnish language courses and one Swedish language course, worked as an intern at the Åland Islands Peace Institute, volunteered with twelve different organisations, and attended ten courses and conferences in seven countries. In 2019, I graduated in June, married my Finnish partner in July, and took the national Finnish language proficiency test (YKI) in August, which is a prerequisite of Finnish citizenship. I then applied for Finnish citizenship in October 2019, which was granted in March 2020. I hoped that this would have a positive impact on my job seeking and career opportunities. After graduating, I sent around 500 job applications in both English and Finnish. In April 2020, I started a part-time position as a Research Assistant in the Faculty of Education and Culture at Tampere University. I also started a temporary full-time position at the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) from May until October 2020. As ECHA offered me three short consecutive contracts within five months, I decided to continue in the Research Assistant position alongside it. I aspire to find a full-time job that offers me long-term job security and stability.

What did you especially appreciate at your own higher education institution?

I think that studying in Finland was a fantastic opportunity because I met people of nationalities that I had never encountered before and learnt about their countries and cultures. Before I moved to Finland, I was hoping to participate in a Finnish language course, but I thought I would have to pay for evening classes. However, I discovered that international students are able to participate in the Finnish language courses offered by Tampere University for no extra cost and incorporate the credits gained from them into their studies. Heikki Kangasniemi is an absolutely brilliant Finnish language teacher. I have mild dyslexia, for which I was offered significantly more support and understanding than when I studied in Britain.

How would you describe Tampere as a city? What makes it special?

I fell in love with Finland because of its small population, education system, welfare system, low levels of corruption, flexible and less working hours, higher salaries, low levels of crime, significant contribution to peacekeeping, healthier food, respect for the environment, recycling facilities, and cycling infrastructure. I especially like Tampere because it has beautiful nature, an interesting history, a variety of affordable leisure activities, and plenty of vegetarian and vegan food options